Tech

So, someone you know wants to become a doctor?

Every now and then someone young approaches me for advice on choosing medicine as a profession. They are all extremely bright, capable and enthusiastic semi-adults, with strong desires to change the world and to “make a difference”. With on average 6 000 applicants for 250 places at a medical training university, the odds are against all…

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A little known history of cocaine (Part 2)

For part one of this series click here. As I noted in the last part of this series, cocaine became a “medical miracle” at the same time as medical science was legitimating itself as a modern form of enquiry. At first cocaine was lauded, especially between 1884 and 1899, as the first real topical anaesthetic…

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Impossible science: Zombie DNA and how you’re safer in a city

Whenever something goes wrong in my daily Johannesburg life, my mother — who I misguidedly call for words of comfort and solace — tells me that that’s what I get for “living in a place of wickedness”. (She harbours not-so-secret hopes of getting me to move to her bucolic paradise in deepest darkest Eastern Cape.)…

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Was Heidegger right about technology?

When reading a text by Martin Heidegger, who died in 1976 at age 86, one is usually – provided one reads it carefully and attentively – startled by the almost tangible way in which one can sense the “unfolding” of the thinking that is embodied in it. I find it exhilarating. There are few philosophers…

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Nailing colours to the mast – you’re either a journalist or a PR

There is an ongoing debate in science journalism — the question of whether you can write science PR for corporates or government and also write science journalism for media houses. If you want some background, here’s an interesting piece in Nature and another blog post. While the IT industry learned about these blurred lines a…

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Dear Evolution, thank you for oestrogen

Women, thank your lucky stars for oestrogen. There has historically been a perception that women handle stress and general panic better than men, but new research from the University of Buffalo now proves it and points to a reason. According to the animal study published in Molecular Psychiatry on July 9, it’s all thanks to…

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Why the silence on the right to internet access?

The United Nations Human Rights Council has in the past called the right to freedom and expression “one of the essential foundations of a democratic society”. It has recognised the internet’s importance in the “promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression”. This subsequently led to a landmark resolution, which saw…

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Filling in the gaps – understanding white space spectrum

Technological innovation and information communication technologies (ICTs) represent a way for developing world nations to foster economic growth and development, improve levels of education and training, as well as address gender issues within society. Put simply, ICTs help reinforce, converge and integrate all three key pillars of sustainable development, and also support and facilitate the…

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Planet hunting for second Earths

It’s days like today that I miss the Greek and Roman pantheons. It was the golden age of star, planet and galaxy naming. Mars, Saturn, Andromeda … they were myths written across the skies. These days, it’s a collection of someone’s name, numbers of letters – thoroughly unromantic … unless of course there was a…

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It’s a sheep-eat-plant world…except sometimes

It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Or, in this case, it is usually a sheep-eat-plant world. But in Chile, sometimes the plants eat the sheep. When I first read that, I thought I was being had, that I would excitedly tell people about this carnivorous plant with a taste for sheep and be told I was wrong….

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